Tobacco Smuggling: Tobacco Industry, International Crime Syndicates and Drug Dealers Light Up

March 06, 2001

The Bush administration not only has deep ties to oil and aluminum, but also to tobacco interests. Karl Rove, alongtime Bush friend who now holds the title of senior advisor to the president, was a paid political consultant forPhilip Morris for five years; Deputy attorney general Larry Thompson was a lawyer for the Atlanta law firm King andSpalding, which represented the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council. Attorney General John Ashcroft, andPresident Bush himself, are also considered friends of big tobacco.

This casts doubt on whether the new U.S. administration will continue to invest resources into investigating tobaccosmuggling, a multi-billion dollar industry. A new report by the Center for Public Integrity’s InternationalConsortium of Investigative Journalists asserts that, while tobacco manufacturers often blame smuggling on organizedcrime, tobacco company officials at Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and R. J. Reynolds have worked closelywith companies and individuals directly connected to organized crime around the world.

Corporate documents, court records and internal government reports also show that these companies have orchestratedsmuggling networks variously in the US, Canada, Europe, Southeast Asia, China, Colombia, the Middle East and Africaas a major part of their marketing strategy.


  • Charles Lewis, Director Center for Public Integrity.
  • Bill Marsden, investigative reporter for the Montreal Gazette and member of Consortium ofInvestigative journalists.